I recently read a short piece on innovative companies via a thoughtful newsletter by Peter Diamandis, a leader in technology my father turned me on to. Diamandis's personal motto is "The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself" (love that) and he is a promoter of an abundant future that will be better than we think. Imagine TomorrowLand in Disney's Epcot and you'll be on the right track.
Anyway, back to the piece by Diamandis on tech companies. He conducted a poll on Twitter asking which of 4 companies (Amazon, Google, Facebook, or Tesla) people viewed as most innovative and the overwhelming response - with help from a vote from me - was Tesla. In his newsletter the following week (you can read it here), Diamandis explained his theory for Tesla's victory (despite some of the other companies spending more on R&D than Tesla's entire market cap) which included having a clear purpose, a founder with personality, social media influence, and physical products.
After thinking about this some more, I find the most compelling reason to be what I call focus (and Diamandis calls an MTP or Massively Transformative Purpose). While I am a HUGE fan of Amazon (see these three posts from way back in the day), it is true that the company has a scattered vision and is dedicating resources to many different enterprises. This is not bad, of course, because they are accomplishing new and exciting developments (for my fashion lovers, check out Amazon's newest device that helps you decide what to wear). However, when it comes to public perception of innovation and transformation, it is a company like Tesla that has a clear vision and coordinates all of its efforts to achieving its goals that emerges on top.
With some more thinking, I found this completely relates to us as individuals. We hear a lot about "personal branding" and I have shared the power of having a yearly mantra (that has turned into a sustained life motto for me - be gracious, be disciplined, be kind), but focus encompasses more than that. Focus requires that you not only have a mission, but that all of your decisions and actions align with your purpose.
This may all sound quite theoretical and well and good for companies, but I propose that it is just as, if not more, important for us as individuals. It can become easy to get scattered in our obligations and tasks, by signing up for too many clubs or agreeing to projects that don't quite align with what you want to do. To become more effective and to make strides in what you are actually interested in, it is essential to determine what that is and to F.O.C.U.S.
For example, during my time at college I tried a variety of activities and explored more than one career path (take a look at my recent post on what I learned throughout my four years). It wasn't until I focused in on sales that I had meaningful accomplishments, like my sales competitions, internship, and now getting ready for my full time job. Once I recognized that this was what I liked to do and what I was best at, I ensured that all of my decisions about where to spend my time aligned with further developing myself in sales.
This is not to say that I don't spend my time on anything else - you are still reading this blog twice a week, I love going to fitness classes, and more often than not I am now skipping out on the library to hang out with friends #senioritis - but when it comes to substantial commitments it is imperative that it will further your goals with whatever it is you want to do. My suggestion is not to be one dimensional and limited, but rather to be selective with your time and realize it is not endless.
From what I have observed and experienced, being a jack of all trades is not the best way to develop. Yes, you must have a variety of skills and cannot rely on being a one trick pony, but you also cannot afford to be scattered if you are going to be a significant contributor. Even if you don't know exactly what your "mission" or main purpose is, there are ways to become more focused and intentional with your energy.
Be mindful to determine what marries your interests and skills
As you experiment with what you get involved in - by the projects you take on at work and the activities you join - pay attention to what makes you happy and also where you thrive.
Being a natural at something is great, but finding something that excites you and you have a propensity for that you have to work at can be even better. Being disciplined and realizing that your efforts will pay off is key.
You will get the most satisfaction from using your talents to benefit others rather than just yourself. Perhaps that comes from working on a team or from contributing to improving outcomes for others, but seeing your piece as part of a bigger puzzle will keep you motivated and will allow you to feel that you are progressing.
What does all of this come down to?
Focus = Impact
By being focused and intentional you will be able to progress further in your work and have a greater part in making a meaningful difference. Be like Elon Musk and have a master plan that you can clearly work towards each and every day (for an amazing - granted, long - Elon article, take a look at this one from Vanity Fair).
How do you decide where to spend your time? Do you believe that being focused is the best way to go, or do you find more value in engaging in a variety of areas?